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Nineteen months after ICIR report, NEMA still waits for due process to upgrade ERABs in Abuja

THE National Emergency Agency (NEMA) is yet to rehabilitate and upgrade its Emergency Response and Ambulance Bays (ERABs) in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power, more than one year it was reported that the facilities were broken-down, The ICIR can authoritatively report.

This is also coming more than six months after NEMA placed advert calling for bids to rehabilitate and upgrade the ERABs.

But the agency said it was following due process to award the contract for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the emergency facilities months after the bids have been opened.

The ERABs were constructed between 2013 and 2014 in Abuja to respond to emergencies arising from road accidents, fire outbreaks, collapsed buildings and explosions.

The facilities were installed to reduce loss of lives and property and increase response time during emergencies and disasters, an official of NEMA who did not want to be named said.

Records of road accidents alone in Abuja are worrisome, in addition to cases of terrorists’ attack and building collapse that the city has witnessed in the last 10 years.

Statistics from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) shows that Abuja has the highest number of accidents in 10 years—9,410 between 2007 and 2017.

Within the same period, a total of 2,886 deaths were recorded in the FCT, placing it fourth behind Kaduna, Kano and Ogun states that have the highest number of deaths from road accidents in those years.

The data for the year 2010 was unavailable in the FRSC annual Road Traffic Crashes in Nigeria.

Between 2013 and 2017, a total of 1,649 persons died from 5,640 road accidents in the FCT.

In April 2018, The ICIR reported that the facilities were poorly managed while NEMA’s members of staff assigned to oversee them were also owed their allowances at the time of the report.

The report revealed how three out of the five ERABs inaugurated in Abuja—in Lugbe, Bill Clinton Drive along Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport and Federal Secretariat opposite Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs were no longer functioning.

Manzo Ezekiel, the agency’s spokesperson, said in an interview that NEMA was following due process in awarding the contract for the rehabilitation and upgrade of the facilities.

“So there’s a process that is in place for the upgrading and rehabilitation of all the ERABs in Abuja,” Ezekiel says, though he could not recollect the date he placed advertisement calling for bids to rehabilitate the ERABs.

“I’m not sure of the specific date, but I want to tell you that NEMA advertised for the upgrading of the ERABs,” he says.

The ERABs at the Federal Secretariat before it was set ablaze during a clash between IMN members and police. Photo Credit: YEKEEN Akinwale

One of the ERABs and other equipment including a Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) and a fire fighting van at the Federal Secretariat was razed down in July 2019 during a clash between members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and personnel of Nigeria Police after a protest by the former.

Director-General of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, had while inspecting the damage, noted that the burnt equipment were very expensive and would cost taxpayers a lot of money to replace.

The ICIR reported that the ERAB at Lugbe FHA junction along Umar Musa Yar’Adua express road was stripped of all its accessories to the carcass by vandals while Mobile Intensive Care Units and Fire Fighting Vans at the remaining ERABs were also not in good shape.

Stripped naked: Vandals feasted freely on Lugbe Emergency Response Ambulance Bay (ERAB)

Between September 2013 and 2017, Samuel Bitrus, Coordinator, NEMA Abuja Operations Office at the time said ERABs responded to 1,767 incidences involving 6145 persons. Of this figure, he said 2,461 sustained injuries, while 284 died.

NEMA insists all facilities are intact, functioning

When told that emergency response some equipment at the ERABs may not be functioning well, Ezekiel admitted that they were long due for an upgrade even before July 21, 2019 incident at the Federal Secretariat. He, however, insisted that they were functioning well.

Each one of the facilities is equipped with a Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU), a fire fighting vehicle and is manned by 12 staff that run three shifts a day.

“There is nothing like abandoning or whatever but we are just in the due process of rehabilitating it and advert was placed, people have bid for it and it’s just a matter of time,” he retorted.

“It’s just the due process we are following,” he added, apparently struggling to convince this reporter that work was ongoing.

“They are not neglected because in the agency we understand the value of quick intervention in the emergency especially within the city.

“You know, Abuja is the capital of Nigeria and we are doing everything possible to make sure that whatever we do here is a model and with time will spread to other cities in the country.”

Asked why the contractors have not been shortlisted up to this moment, Ezekiel responded swiftly, saying “what do you need to understand is that I don’t know much about procurement process because that itself is a specialized area. I’m a PR person, and I will only speak based on information available to me and what I can prove.”

He disclosed that the signing of the award of contract of that nature is usually not ceremonial.

“The bids have been opened and you know signing of contracts for things like that do not take ceremonial in nature but I’m aware that a process had begun and I think as soon as the agency signs the contract, the contractors will mobilise to site.”

 

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